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322km (174 nautical miles) NE of Piraeus

The most mountainous and densely forested of the Northeastern Aegean isles, Samos appears wild and mysterious as you approach its north coast by ferry. The hills plunging to the sea are jagged with cypresses, and craggy peaks hide among the clouds. Samos experienced a series of wildfires during the summer of 2000, which briefly brought the island to the attention of the international press, but effects of that event have faded.

In recent years, Samos has played host to that form of mass tourism involving "package" groups from Europe. This is mostly confined to the eastern coastal resorts -- Vathi, Pithagorio, and Kokkari -- all of which have developed a generic waterfront of hotels, cafes, and souvenir shops. The rugged splendor of the island's interior continues to hide the most interesting and beautiful villages. Difficult terrain and a remote location made these villages an apt refuge from pirates in medieval times; in this age, the same qualities have spared them from tourism's worst excesses.

Although Samos has several fine archaeological sites, the island is most noted for its excellent beaches and abundant opportunities for hiking, cycling, and windsurfing. Those who remember nothing from studying geometry except the Pythagorean Theorem may be pleased to know that Pythagoas was born on Samos, about 580 B.C. Also, Samos is the best crossover point for those who want to visit Ephesus, one of the most important archaeological sites in Asia Minor.